Photography Times: Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake

April 04, 2010

It was my first visit to the Reptile House. The idea was simple - a shot of a snake known for its venom and with its tongue protruding out, attempting to make it look as ferocious as possible. And that made this photograph one of the most difficult ones to compose.

There are about thirty species of rattlesnakes and most of them are venomous. They receive their name from the rattle present at the edge of their tails. The Neotropical Rattlesnakes are mostly found in the wild in South America. They have an extremely dangerous neurotoxic venom. As is the nature of a neurotoxic venom, when bitten, the venom instantly attacks the Central Nervous System. Neotropical Rattlesnakes are a cause of several deaths in South America.

The Reptile House being what it was, gave a safe distance and protective shielding from a number of such snakes. While it may be almost impossible to take a shot as this one in the wild, this still turned out to be a strenuous four-hour affair playing hide and seek with the rattlesnake.

As the idea was to take a close-up, tongue-out shot, I had to wait not just for the snake - which was moving fairly swiftly for its size - to move into an appropriate position with its eyes facing me, but also to hope it pushes its tongue out at that very instant. The tongue came out every few seconds, but was withdrawn within the next fraction of the second. There was no pattern to either the movement or the times when the tongue protruded out.

Adding to the difficulty was the low lighting conditions. It's advised never to use a flash light when photographing wildlife for the obvious reasons that could alarm the animals. So it required an extremely high ISO setting - much to my personal dislike, because high ISOs tend to dither the quality of the photograph. But the low lighting conditions meant there was not an option. Couple that with a slower shutter speed than what would have been ideal to freeze the tongue within that little fraction of the second that it was out. Slow shutter speed meant more exposure and it became another necessity to mitigate the low lighting conditions.

It took four long hours which included four cans of Ginger Ale, and about a hundred attempted shots which either missed the snake's eyes, or its tongue. The photograph is still not as ferocious as I wanted it to be, but I would settle for this now. My wait continues for the one with a really ferocious look of a venomous snake.

Vidhya is an Independent Artist and a student of New York Institute of Photography. Twitter. Facebook. Facebook Photography Page. LinkedIn.
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Photography Times: Northwestern Neotropical Rattlesnake


Author: Vidhya


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